Before reading this: the views in this weblog post are my own and do NOT necessarily represent the views of D66, Jonge Democraten or any other organization I am associated with.
June 9 2010, Dutch elections for the House of Representatives. D66 witnessed an increase of the number of seats from 3 to 10, of the 150 seats in total in the Dutch House of Representatives. After having had a hard time, D66 reclaimed the trust of the Dutch people. In the last few days, D66 has been campaigning for a new Purple Coalition. Personally, as a member, supporter and voter, I wholeheartedly endorse this decision. In this weblog post, I will explain why, but first I will give a short introduction on the background of ‘Purple’.
Previous Purple coalitions
From 1994 to 1998, the first Purple coalition governed. This was a coalition of PvdA (red), VVD (blue) and D66 (green). This may have been the most progressive government in Dutch political history. It was responsible, among other policies, for possibilities and regulation of civil liberties like euthanasia, gay marriage and legalized prostitution.
From 1998 to 2002, the second Purple coalition governed. This coalition was to continue the policies of the first purple coalition, to work for improving the economy, reducing taxes and reducing unemployment. Arguably not as successful as the first purple coalition.
In 2002, Pim Fortuyn entered the spotlight. He wrote the book De Puinhopen van Acht Jaar Paars (“The Mess of Eight Years Purple”), criticizing the past two Purple coalitions for supposedly neglecting the health system, security, public governance and education. In the Netherlands, being anti-establishment almost automatically attracts votes of citizens who are dissatisfied with traditional parties and do not associate themselves with those parties.
Apart from being controversial with his anti-Islam ideas, populist statements and far-right positions, he also had a very shaky political history. He had often changed political party, finally became party leader of Leefbaar Nederland, but was kicked out for being too controversial. This ultimately brought him to found his own party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF). His party became so popular, it won enough seats to instantly join the new government coalition. This was the first cabinet led by Jan Peter Balkenende (CDA).
The Balkenende Era
Jan Peter Balkenende started off with a trend that would be the key note for all of his cabinets. The first Balkenende cabinet had a lifespan of only three months. Because of unrest in the LPF party after the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, the LPF could no longer govern in the first Balkenende cabinet.
The second Balkenende cabinet already had trouble with its formation. Eventually, D66 decided to join in a coalition with CDA and VVD to realize a majority coalition. It crashed, however, when minister for Integration and Immigration Rita Verdonk made a very controversial move by starting a procedure to evict Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
As a result a third Balkenende cabinet was formed. This was a caretaker government, as CDA and VVD did not have the support of a majority in the parliament and had to find a new majority for each policy proposal.
Finally, after new elections, the fourth Balkenende cabinet came. In my opinion, this was the cabinet with the least accomplishments in the range of Balkenende cabinets. The government installed many committees to postpone political decisions, put away responsibility on the political support on the Iraq war and finally the PvdA, being against a longer stay in Afghanistan, while CDA and CU were for a longer stay in Afghanistan, persuaded the CDA to ask the PvdA to break with the coalition. Again, there were early elections.
A new era, a purple era
After so many years of hardly any reforms, hardly any government and increasing polarization, it is time for something completely different. It is time to have a broad government, a government free of xenophobia and lack of understanding of multiculturalism.
Considering the election result of June 9, 2010, Paars+ (Purple Plus) is the only realistic and the most wise coalition to realize. Only a purple coalition can solve the divide in the Dutch society, because it will represent social, green and liberal values and interests. A purple coalition should lead by example in solving the problems the Netherlands have right now, in the right way. By economic reforms and being socially inclusive, not exclusive. Everyone should participate in a society, especially in times of crisis.
What we need in times of trouble and times of unrest is a government that is broad, a government that does not exclude anyone and a government that works. A reformist government that is progressive and brings about real change in a government system that has been run too long by governments that didn’t bring any change and made society unstable by not responding to their calls for change.
A purple coalition is the only chance we have to stop xenophobia and the gap between politics and citizens. A good economy, low unemployment, social cohesion and fair regulation of both market en ethics.
We should stop thinking in terms of ‘left’ and ‘right’ but we should think in terms of what is fair and unfair. It would be unfair for next generations to have a government that excludes entire ethnic or religious groups. A government that would raise the national deficit, rather than introducing the highly necessary reforms we need to return to fiscal responsibility.
There should be a government that is fair to everyone, not just a part of the population. Whatever religion, ethnicity, political preference, a government should represent the best interests of a people. This is a purple coalition. Having both progressive and conservative liberals, greens and social democrats in one government is a golden opportunity to not drive in one lane of the highway, either left or right, but to take a steadfast course to the future.
The Balkenende government has shown that changing nothing out of fear gives that very fear an opportunity to grow. The popularity of the xenophobic PVV has grown more during the Balkenende governments than the LPF could.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
A government should not represent the fears of its people. A government should represent the hopes of its people. The hope for a good education. The hope for a job. The hope for participating in society. The hope to be able to have some money left to enjoy life. The hope for sustainable energy sources. The hope for being able to walk in a clean park, with clean air and no pollution. The hope for a better country, not a country with closed borders, with hatred, a country with negligence for the troubles of people who have less opportunities. This is not the country I want to live in. I want to live in a country that empowers its citizens. A country that is open and free. A country that is tolerant to differences, but intolerant to indifference.
It is time for a progressive reformist government, with broad interests, ready for the future, and ready for what might be one of the best governments in Dutch history.